Remembering Becky DeNardis
We have a different perspective on Becky than everyone else in the Duke community; we’ve known Becky since she was born. She was always a bright, inquisitive child who loved learning. That made her an excellent student, and that made us proud. Her academic achievements got her accepted to Duke and that made her proud. When she started her studies, she was reserved and reluctant to assert herself. During her time at Duke, we saw her transform from a timid girl into a self-confident young woman. To us, this was at least as important as the education she was receiving. She truly blossomed during her time at Duke.
We want to thank everyone in the Duke community, especially the members of Round Table, who contributed to this wonderful transformation. You touched Becky directly but also touched us, her family. Without reservation we can say that the time Becky spent at Duke were the best days of her life.
Dave, Judy and Emily DeNardis
Becky, you were always going to be a part of us.
It didn’t take long before we all knew that Becky DeNardis was rushing Round Table. Everyone who met her would later say to their friends, “Make sure you meet Becky.”
At first, it was hard to describe what made her so special. She had a quiet charm that always left you wanting more. Her smile was radiant, but when we first met her she was sparing with it. She could talk about anything. She would listen to anyone. She had an energy about her that we wanted to be a part of. We were so ready to welcome her to our family.
In the three short, incredible years we shared with Becky, she became a vibrant, impressive woman who we felt lucky to know. Her quiet charm grew into a magnetism that could woo the coldest heart. Her intellectual prowess proved to be unstoppable. Her soft asides would become an unmatched wit. She would grow from a shy, young woman to someone we lovingly called “Fierce Becky.”
But four years ago she didn’t know any of that would happen. She submitted her application days early just to make sure we would get it. She then followed up via email to make sure we had received it. She needed double confirmation. We saw her nerves, and while we couldn’t tell her that she was a shoe-in, we wanted to. We wanted to say, “You’re already a part of us.” We knew she would find out soon enough.
Now, too soon, we’re forced to say goodbye. But we’d also like to say thank you. Your life improved ours immeasurably. Your kindness, humor and brilliance are things we’ll forever cherish. Your memory will always be with us.
Becky, you will always be a part of us.
Round Table Class of 2013
Becky had long hair when I first met her.
I had forgotten that. I was reminded that her red locks used to be flowing as I clicked through photos on Friday, mourning a friend whose life was cut short. See, a few months into knowing her, she cut it all off and started rocking the pixie cut. It surprised me. This shy, quiet woman had made a bold move most were too scared to even attempt. But I would learn boldness and surprises were kind of Becky’s things.
She had a lightning-quick sense of humor. When people mistook her quiet for docility, they would soon learn she could always best them in a war of wits.
She was a skilled soccer player. Her frame was tiny, but she could zip down the field.
She was a computer science wiz, so much so that professors would ask her to take their classes. She was both in action and words a fierce advocate for women in tech fields.
She had great taste in music. The tracks she listened to were often obscure gems that would get stuck in your head for days.
I knew when I first met her was that she was kind and warm. What surprised me was that this seemingly had no limits. She was the first person to pop down the hall to offer a kind word when you were having a hard week. She was ready to drive to RDU to pick you up anytime. She gave incredible gifts that were thoughtful reflections of the recipients’ personality.
She grew into all of these qualities in her time at Duke with a ferocity I’ve never experienced in anyone else. She blossomed into a woman who I was, and am, proud to call my friend. I feel privileged to have seen her grow into a force of nature that could do anything.
I think I forgot she had long hair because bold just looked so good on her.
Nathan Nye, Trinity ’13
Becky was one of the most genuine people I have ever met. She was so comfortable just being her own self, something that is so rare. I think anyone who has ever met her would agree that she is one of the kindest, warmest people and always carried around a positive attitude towards everything she did and everyone she knew. She would rarely, if ever, be upset or angry with anyone and was always very understanding and welcoming towards others. No matter how busy she was, she would always make the time to listen to you if you had a problem or even if you wanted to talk about nonsense. Becky’s compassion was infectious, and she certainly made me want to be a nicer and more caring person.
Becky also had such an aptitude for and love of learning computer science. Whether she was talking with me about her Google internship or discussing a project in class like a Pac-Man game that never lost, her face lit up and you could tell how passionate she was about the classes she took and the work she was doing. Becky was one of the brightest people I know at Duke and was always on top of her schoolwork and grades, but she was humble about it and never liked to boast about her many accomplishments. I wish I could have spent more time with her and gotten to know her even better, but I will never forget the memories I have had with her, and I want to thank her for being such a great friend.
Le Qi, Pratt ’15
I met Becky DeNardis for the first time during Round Table rush. My first conversation with her was 12 months later at a holiday party where she told me how she loved watching funny Shaquille O’Neal videos and looking up cute animals on the internet. We didn’t talk again for a whole two years when I happened to be visiting her roommate, Fei Gao, at 10 p.m. on a Friday night. The three of us ended up staying up until 4 a.m. that night in one of the first multi-hour conversations that would build the bulk of our friendship.
Becky was my best friend. She knew everything about me. I knew everything about her. We spent that first long conversation talking about her hair, and how she felt cutting it off. We spent another couple hours that night complaining about being women in STEM—a conversation topic that would come up way too often afterwards. We became closer during the next semester, and all of a sudden, we were roommates and best friends.
I would feel terrible, because I would keep waking her up with my alarm. She got me hooked onto Diet Coke and popcorn. We literally used to talk for at the very least a couple hours every single day. It got so bad that we decided we had to set rules for when we could talk. We decided to do this thing where we worked for 45 minutes and then we could talk for 15 minutes. I think our record was six sessions in a row. Every Monday, we would go to weight training class, do 45/15s together, and then, we would order Chai’s. We both loved the edamame.
We made silly plans. We were both going to work for a couple years, and then we were going to be badasses and go to this cool New York university together that offers this artsy computer science/entrepreneurial combo degree, and I can’t remember the name of it right now. We used to over-analyze texts and write emails for each other, because we never knew what to say. And she would send me music. She introduced me to Delta Rae, and we went to their concert together. I have a huge list of songs she sent me on Spotify that I still haven’t listened to. We were supposed to go on a road trip this summer. Those messages I sent her this week on Facebook are going to remain unread.
She wrote me a letter when I left Duke. She wrote that she particularly remembered a night when Fei, Becky and I came back early from a party on Friday night, and we decided we were going to be super serious and listen to sad music and be “sophisticated.” But we all just ended up falling asleep on each other on our futon. She wrote that she remembered feeling completely content. I was too. I just took for granted that we were going to have so many more moments like that. We had so many plans. And I’m still in shock, and I’m so confused. I literally just cannot express how much Becky meant to me—how much she means to me. I miss her so much. I love you, Becky.
Samhita Noone, Trinity ’14
The last few days passed by in a blur. My mind replays the crash incessantly. Yet after thousands of repetitions, I still cannot make sense of those five endless seconds.
Our adventure along the Blackwater River was an incredible experience. The stunning scenery and the amazing new friendships imbued our collective memories. I could never have imagined that our trip would come to such a horrendous end. The incident was simply too outrageous to be real. How could a girl as bright, beautiful, endearing, witty and gentle as Becky vanish in such a senseless, arbitrary way? She is too precious for the world to lose.
Many beautiful scenes arise with the thought of Becky. I recall the warm afternoon when I taught Becky yoga by the river. I see the shallow smile on her sunlit face when she closed her eyes and listened to the sound of the wind brushing through the leaves. I remember the chilly dusk when all the girls had a braiding party and Becky smilingly praised my creative up-side-down French braid. Then with our hair in various intricate patterns, we sat in a circle and played riddles until sunset. Becky was such a riddle master. Her face flowed with kindness when she patiently offered us hints. I recollect the misty Friday morning when I ran into Becky during a spontaneous hike. Walking through branches and vines, I reached a steep riverbank facing upstream. The glorious sunlight tainted the morning haze an orange hue. I was surprised and glad to see Becky standing in a little distance, contemplating nature’s finest painting. We watched the splendid river sunrise in silence; she smiled at me and turned around …
Memories keep flushing back and make me cry. The beautiful protagonist is forever locked into the past. Yet, strangely, revisiting these scenes in tears, I begin to gather a sense of warmth. I realize that the extraordinary manner in which Becky lived had enabled her to experience life in amazing depth and fullness. Although her journey came to an abrupt cloture, the radiance of her being will continue to shine on numerous people in a subtler way. Becky’s essence has already influenced who I am, and I shall transmit her light via my life to many others. I know this holds true for all people who had the fortune to make her acquaintance.
Becky cherished a selfless dream of helping others to live a better life. As members of her beloved community, we should ensure her dream continues to blossom. Beginning this day, we should gradually transform our profound sorrow into incessant strength. We should endeavor to support each other while still processing our own grieving. We should make helping others our own lifelong goal.
Losing Becky is an irrevocable tragedy. Nevertheless, I hope we can come to see this difficult time as an occasion when an incredible soul reminded us how we should lead our lives. I hope we can emerge from this enormous loss determined to live and love more fully than ever. Only in this way can we truly honor Becky DeNardis, the extraordinary girl with whom we shared a short yet splendid journey.
Lynn Zhang, Trinity ’16
I can honestly say that I would not be in Round Table if it wasn’t for Becky’s infectious smile and welcoming care. When I attended the rush info session two years ago, she was the very first Round Tabler I talked to. She was a quiet, quirky person hugging the side of the room, and I was a quiet, quirky person who just wanted to hug the side of the room. I would not have come back to the next rush event if I hadn’t had such a pleasant conversation with Becky. We talked about women in STEM fields, and that was my first introduction to Becky’s incredible drive and passion for the things she cared about.
Becky was impossible to dislike. She was clever and sassy with a heart of gold. Never have I met another person who is so willing to drop everything to help a friend in need, no matter how trivial or grand the friend’s concern.
I will miss Becky’s wide grin, her nerdy humor and her quick wit. I’ll miss watching her zigzag through the RT hallways, listening to her talk about the latest thing she found fascinating and catching her as she briefly popped her head into the common room just long enough to give a heartfelt greeting to everyone there.
We lost a brilliant mind that was not yet finished with the incredible impact she could have had on the world, but more importantly we lost a beautiful person who offered the purest kind of friendship, who has entirely left a mark on the souls of those around her.
Karmyn McKnight, Pratt ’15
The Round Table alumni community offers its sincerest condolences to the family and friends of Becky DeNardis, who was lost far too early in her already extraordinary life. We are especially heartbroken for the current and recent Round Table members who loved and supported Becky. The bonds formed in selective living groups are some of the strongest at Duke, lasting far beyond students’ four years on campus. As alumni, we wish we had the chance to welcome Becky and get to know her as deeply as you have. Round Table has always provided its members with a source of inspiration, comfort and true friendship, and we know that you will draw upon these elements as you honor Becky’s memory. Please know that hundreds of Round Table alumni are thinking of you at this difficult time and will be there for you when you need us.
Round Table Alumni Community
I love you. I miss you so very much. It's hard to imagine what the rest of the semester and our lives will be without you. I take comfort in the wonderful memories that we’ve made these past few years in Round Table and especially this last week on Blackwater River. I want to share our beautiful memories with others so that we can spread our love for you around.
I'll start with the most recent. The last day of our trip, we were eating cheesy grits and I couldn't finish mine. You jumped right in and finished them for me. It was such a small moment, but it captured you well, and I’ll remember it. A few days before, we canoed almost 12 miles on the river. I was the motor, and you steered the canoe. You were such a natural; you kept us safe and moving along swiftly. Once, we slowed down to give someone else a camera, and after, you swerved us into a tree just to give them a wide berth to get by. We hugged that tree, you did some sort of break dance move, and luckily we didn’t tip over. You made me laugh about it.
Looking back, I remember the first time I met you during Round Table rush. We bonded over the computer poster in your room, and I realized immediately how passionate you were about technology. We grew closer over your junior year; you always had a listening ear. We truly connected this year. The day before my MCAT, you gave me a poster that said “good luck on the M-kitty.” It meant so much to me to have your support. I loved being able to come over and borrow your hole puncher and weighing scale. I don't think I can really buy my own; half the time I only punched holes so that I’d have an excuse to come talk to you and Susan for 20 minutes. Sometimes the talking would turn into cuddle piles on your futon. I cherish those moments.
I told you last week that you give the best hugs as we embraced partly out of affection but also for warmth. I wasn’t kidding. To my surprise, you actually nodded and said, “Yes, I do give the best hugs.” I just wish that I could hug you right now.
I will always remember your fierce and beautiful soul. I'm trying to stay strong right now because I know that you would want me to, but it’s so hard. I love you, Becky.
Nonie Arora, Trinity ’15
It is difficult to define what Becky DeNardis meant to the Round Table family because she meant so many different things to so many different people. For some, she was a patient teacher; for others, she was an eager student. For some, she was a passionate leader; for others, she was a caring teammate. For some, she was a loyal confidante; for others, she was a crafty prankster. But for all, she was a wonderful friend.
A conversation with Becky left you a little happier and a little more enchanted by the world. Her sentences usually began with, “I wonder if…” or “If this…” or “If that…” She had boundless curiosity and profound intuition.
Walking through section, you could often find Becky planning her latest Nerf Gun sneak attack on unsuspecting victims, watching obscure movie trailers in between study sessions or lacing up her sneakers to get ready for soccer, zumba or weightlifting.
She had a penchant for study rooms all across Few and had a strange knack for finding uncharted and exotic study spots. She had a bottomless pit of almonds in her room and handed them out liberally. She was her own curator of music and would enthusiastically share it with others. Occasionally, her “newest” hipster song had already been on the Top 40 for a couple months. She was well known for “the Becky”—a famous dance that resembled Carlton’s from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. No one could ever figure out her Halloween costumes—ranging from Audrey Hepburn to Eloise. She once planned a “smear campaign” against the Round Table presidents, planting flyers accusing them of “pizza sabotage.” She often tried, unsuccessfully, to convince others that she’d never lied before in her life.
Becky’s own words paint a fuller picture than anything else we could say. On her Round Table application as a freshman, she answered this question: If you were to be recognized by posterity for one thing, what would you like to be known for?
“Besides the given, my dazzling charm and incredible strength, I would most like to be remembered for my willingness to help other people. I would like to use the abilities I have to help people in some way. I am interested in finding more efficient, ecologically sustainable ways to distribute our world’s diminishing resources, as well as designing affordable products to provide people in developing countries with basic necessities.
Along with furthering humanity with these types of advancements, I would also like to be remembered for helping people on a more personal basis, with their daily problems and conflicts.”
We miss you, Becky, and we love you.
I remember a poster of an internet city that hung above Becky’s desk. It was city with buildings named after internet companies in the 2000s (Google, Digg, Facebook, etc.). I always thought she would add a building to that city. She sat under that poster and solved difficult problem sets and assignments. People would stop by to catch up or initiate Nerf Gun attacks, and she would always welcome them with a bright smile. Her smile is my favorite memory of her. She would listen fully, and then smile as she'd deliver a witty response. It had this funny phenomena of spreading to everyone else in the room as well. It certainly matched her sweet personality. She was the type to walk from Perkins to her room immediately if you had locked something in there.
I first met Becky when she was a freshman and was considering computer science. She was a bright student interested in math. Fast-forward to her junior year (my senior year), and she was working for Google, and advising me on compsci. She was naturally curious, and not only a dreamer but a doer. She’d let her work talk more than ideas. She was a champion in the tech space. Becky had met Sheryl Sandberg and was shooting to be the next Marissa Meyer. Her accomplishments and work put her on track to reach that goal. She even picked an apartment in Mountain View down the road from Marissa Meyer’s former office. I was really excited to see her raise a new building on that landscape.
I’ll treasure all the memories I was fortunate enough to share with her. Becky was brilliant and sweet. Remembering her smile still makes me smile.
Sid Kandan, Pratt ’13
Duke students seem to have a knack for making the national news. In recent years, we have had members of the lacrosse team accused of rape (but later acquitted), a senior rating her sexual encounters in a PowerPoint and, most recently, a student working in the porn industry all pop up in national news outlets. I do not intend to pass judgment on these individuals, but I do wish that outside sources would acknowledge a more ordinary student—one who is more indicative of the Duke community at large. Becky DeNardis was one such ordinary Duke student. Actually, she was an extraordinary one. Although she was always loath to mention her own accomplishments, they were incredible. Majoring in both computer science and math, she was invited to Phi Beta Kappa as a junior, and, before her senior year had even begun, she already had a job offer at Google. More important than her academic and professional accomplishments, she was genuinely caring and thoughtful and had a sharp, biting sense of humor. Becky represents all that can be so great about Duke students: their intelligence, their humor, their compassion. Duke has been deprived of one of its brightest stars, and we need to acknowledge how brightly Becky’s star burned. Let’s forget all the other Duke students who have been in the news lately and rally around one of our greatest, Becky DeNardis. May she rest in peace, and may she not be forgotten.
Rhyne King, Trinity ’14